Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the gospel in the world, obedience to the faith in all nations, and the coming of Jesus Christ in glory.

Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

This petition relates to the divine commands, and is a prayer that they may be obeyed by men, in the same manner as they are by the angels of God in heaven; Christ here referring to Ps. ciïi. 20, 21. where it is said, “Bless the Lord all ye his hosts, ye ministers of his who do his pleasure, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” It is a prayer therefore that men may do the will of God, with the same readiness and chearfulness with which it is performed by these supposed happy spirits. This petition may likewise signity our readiness to submit to whatever sufferings God shall appoint for us: so Christ says, when he was about to suffer, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” “This comprehensive petition, “thy will be done,” says Mr. Addison, is the most humble as well as the most prudent that can be offered up from the creature to the Creator, as it supposes the Supreme Being will do nothing but what is for our good, and that he knows better than ourselves what is so*."

11. Give us this day our daily bread.

Luke, in reciting this prayer, instead of this day, says, day by day our daily bread. By daily bread we are to understand bread sufficient for us: bread is put for food, as being the principal article of food, and may express all the necessaries of life----food and raiment. These only does God promise to us in the New Testament; these only would he have us ask for, and these not in a large store before-hand; but only so much as is sufficient for the present time: what is more than this we must leave to his wisdom, to give or withhold,

• Spectator, No. 207.

as he may think proper. As the child or servant of the master of a family who is good and wise and rich, will not expect to be allowed to lay up provisions in store for himself, for a year or a longer time beforehand, but will be content with a daily portion; so Christ wishes that our prayers should be free from distrust and avarice; that we should ask for no more than what is sufficient for our present wants; and feel no solicitude to provide for the morrow. The daily descent of the manna represented what is expressed by this petition, namely, that we ought to ask of God no more than what is sufficient for every day.

12. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

What are here called debts, are, in the parallel place in Luke, called trespasses; which may serve to explain to us the meaning of the word here used. The sense is ----We do not in vain hope for this indulgence from thee, when we, thy sons, after thy example, treat with the like indulgence our fellow-creatures who have offended against us; not seeking revenge for the injuries we have received, either by actions or evil wishes.

13. And lead us not into temptation:

The meaning of this petition is not that God would not permit us to be exposed to temptations; for this is the common lot of all Christians; but that he would not suffer us to sink under the trial. So when Christ, in another place, exhorts his disciples to watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation, he intends to animate them to exert themselves, that they may not be overcome by their approaching trials.

But deliver us from evil, or, " from the evil one,i. e. the devil.

This member of the verse is opposed to the former. Temptations arise from our own lusts, and from the enemies of our Christian profession; yet both are usually ascribed to the evil one, that is, the devil, from whom they and all other evils are supposed to proceed. We are here directed to pray to be delivered from his power; or, if the words be considered as spoken not of a person but of a thing, of evil in general, we are then to pray, not for deliverance from all evils, but for a mind which cannot be subdued by temptations.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.

These last words, which compose what is called the doxology, are not found in some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, nor in several ancient versions; and, as they are omitted by Luke, it is probable they are an addition to the text, and borrowed from the Jews, who used to conclude their prayers in this manner: but, as they contain nothing but what is true and just, they may be used with propriety in connection with this and other prayers.

Amen, with which the prayer closes, is a Hebrew word that signifies truth. When added to our prayers, it expresses the sincerity and solemnity of our declarations. The Jews were accustomed to conclude their prayers with this, word likewise; but it was the people who usually said Amen, after the person who officiated had done praying. In this manner was it also used by the first Christians: hence Paul says to the Corinthians, 1 Ep. xiv. 16. “Else, when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned, say Amen at thy giving of thanks?"

As the force and connection of the Lord's prayer are in some degree injured, by considering the several parts separately, I shall now give you a short paraphrase of the whole.

"O God, our heavenly Father, the author of our being, who knowest all our wants, and whose care and goodness we daily experience, it is our earnest wish and prayer that thy being, attributes and providence may be universally known and reverenced, and that the pure worship of thee may prevail over the whole world. May thy kingdom under the Messiah, a kingdom of truth and righteousness, be firmly established; so that thy will may be done by all men, with the utmost chearfulness and readiness, as it is done by the angels in heaven. Grant unto us as much of the good things of this life, as may be sufficient for our present use: but for this, and all our future supplies, we chearfully rely on thy infinite wisdom and goodness. Forgive, we beseech thee, our offences against thee, as we, from our hearts, forgive those who offend us. Bring us into no trials, or temptations, that shall be too hard for us; but may all the discipline of life be such as shall exercise and improve us, and be a means of delivering us from all vice, and of establishing us in the practice of virtue! These our requests we address unto thee, as the supreme and perpetual governor of the universe, who canst do more for us than we can ask.”

14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

These words are to be connected with the fifth petition in the Lord's prayer, where we pray for the forgiveness of our sins, and declare our readiness to forgive the sins of others. Christ here teaches us that we cannot expect the forgiveness of sins, in this life, or an entrance into the kingdom of heaven, in the next, unless upon the condition of our obedience; a principal part of which consists in shewing lenity to those who have offended or injured us. He does not forbid the correction and discipline which parents owe their children, and which one man frequently owes to another; nor does he destroy the force of the laws of civil justice, although clemency be certainly required

in enforcing them: but he would have us preserve our hearts averse from all kinds of revenge; not exacting it in our own persons, or by the civil judge; nor even demanding it of God; but, on the contrary, doing good to those that hurt us, and forgiving them.

REFLECTIONS.

1. From this short and excellent form of prayer, we may learn the genuine spirit of Christianity.. It begins with good wishes for the glory of God and the good of mankind, before any petitions are offered for ourselves; and even when we pray, each one for himself, we are to include others in our requests: we are instructed to call God our Father, and to say, not, give me, but give us; hereby being taught that benevolence is a leading duty of religion, which we must exercise in our hearts and in our lives before we can worship God acceptably; and that we ought to be more concerned for the honour of God's name, and for the happiness of our brethren, than for our own particular interests. To these objects let us direct our wishes and endeavours; let us make it the principal business of our lives to promote the interests of religion, and the welfare of the human race; and be assured that, although we make not our own happiness the immediate object of pursuit, we shall more effectually secure it in this way than in any other.

2. As Christ again reminds us of the duty of forgiving our enemies, by introducing it into this prayer, and explaining his motive for doing so afterwards, this shews us the importance of the duty, and the danger which we are in of neglecting it. Our divine master was well aware that it was a hard and distasteful ser

« PreviousContinue »